In the last couple of games, the crowd at Scotiabank Arena has often shouted “M-V-P” to Kawhi Leonard, and they had plenty of reason to do that. Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, played on Saturday night in Toronto, was again the chance to see the 27-year-old small forward in action. And he didn’t disappoint, scoring 45 points in the Raptors win against the visitors from Philly.
Leonard matched his regular-season record, but most importantly he led his team to a 108-95 win in the Eastern Conference semis.
In addition to Leonard, only one Raptor scored in double figures on Saturday night. It was Pascal Siakam, who ended the game with a total of 29 points.
Looking at Leonard and the way he plays, it’s hard to believe he played only 9 games last season, while many were doubtful he would recover from his quadriceps injury.
Kyle Lowry scored 9 points and had 8 assists, with Marc Gasol had 8 points, and was fantastic in defence, containing 76ers centre Joel Embild. On the other side, Redick led the 76ers with 17 points, while six other players scored more than 10 points.
The Raptors were in the lead for the most of the game. At one point in the third quarter, they were up by 19, while they entered the last 12 minutes of the game with an 11-point lead (92-81).
Their lead was within 11 points during the last quarter, stretching to 18. Leonard and Siakam left the game 3:14 before the buzzer, with the crowd giving them a standing ovation. Leonard is still to lose a game against Philadelphia, with the winning streak stretching back to 14 games.
The Battle Continues
Saturday’s win over the 76ers gave the franchize its first five-game playoff winning run in its history.
Game 2 of the series will be played on Monday in Toronto, while Games 3 and 4 will take place at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
On their road to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Toronto eliminated the Orlando Magic after five games, while Philadelphia won the first round series against Brooklyn 4-1.
The Raptors have won three of their four games against Philadelphia in the regular season, although their last game was played back in February. In the meantime, Gasol joined the Raptors, while Harris moved to the 76ers.
The team which wins this series will face either Boston or Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference final. It would be the Raptors second appearance in the conference finals, after losing their first one against the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 back in 2016.
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